This morning began like most Saturdays. I woke up early and got on the computer meaning to write but ended up only surfing the web.
Jane was out of town, so today it was my task alone to wake up our two girls; Jolie to attend art class, Ali to accompany me on my errands.
I woke them up a full hour before art class, certainly enough time to get ready to go somewhere. I hopped in the shower, not expecting them to be ready when I got out but hoping they would at least be out of bed.
That part of the plan worked. They were both up and about when I got out of the shower. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, they exchanged blows, over what I am still not sure. As near as I can tell, Ali initiated the contact with some kind of push or shove to Jolie, who then retaliated with a harder than intended (or so she claims) jab to Ali’s stomach, knocking the wind out of her.
I had to sympathize with Ali, getting hit in the stomach hurts. And I could tell she hurt, both her feelings and physically. So, once I got Ali settled down I set about lecturing them on hitting or the physical expression of anger, on each other, and how it is simply not allowed in our home, or anywhere. I followed up with a demand that they apologize to each other.
I left them upstairs, going downstairs to assemble the remaining gear before we left home. By this time we were borderline on being on time to Jolie’s art class. I could hear them speaking, supposedly apologizing. In my mind, however, I envisioned them exchanging high fives and slaps on the back, celebrating another delayed departure.
“Way to take one for the team Ali!!!”
Ali “Did you have to hit me so hard?”
Jolie “Sorry. But it worked great. Maybe we should do it again before church tomorrow.”
Ali “NO!!! I get to hit this time!!”
Yes, there is clearly a conspiracy in our house to prevent timeliness, regardless of the pain or suffering it causes.
Which brings me to the question, why don’t my children care about time or being late?
I consider myself fairly strict, not having much tolerance for bad behavior. But somehow I have been ineffective in teaching my children the importance of punctuality.
The root of this, I’m guessing, is my disregard for time. Time, like money, is a modern invention of convenience. Society tends to value both in terms of quantity, not quality. Isn’t it, after all, the quality of time that we value? Time spent with children, or family, in the beauty of wilderness, or hard at work on our life’s passion? And isn’t money about quality of life, not more material possessions?
How do we teach or children to value money, not for the power or goods it gives them but for the opportunity it gives them to spend more time with family, or explore their spirituality, to show compassion, to expand their actions to things that may matter beyond the grave? And how can we teach them that if they aren’t careful time will become money’s mistress, and in turn will do money’s bidding? And when this happens time is lost for them, and can only be reclaimed through difficult and life-altering decisions.
I surmise that my children read my disregard for time and money, and know time isn’t something I’m going to come down hard on them for.
What I will come down hard on them for is disrespect. What I apparently have failed to teach them is that by being late you are showing disrespect to the people you are meeting with, working with, or learning from. Their time is as precious as ours, and should be treated accordingly. I don’t expect the 4 year old to understand this, but the 9-year old most certainly should.
Despite this belief, I still find it impossible to be on time. When I’ve got the kids, with Jane or alone, we will be late. If I’m with Jane, with the kids or alone, we will be late. When I am alone, then I may just be on time, though nothing is guaranteed. Jane seems to have the same problem, albeit reversed.
I’ve resolved this is because each of us, while also being incredibly stubborn, is a contrarian. Mix the 4 of us together, well, you get the picture. For example:
Me; “Jolie, hurry up, we are going to be late.”
She slows down.
“Jolie, now!!!! we are going to be late.”
She slows down, more.
I didn’t know it was physically possible to move that slow. Glaciers have nothing on her. In fact, there has been more than one occasion where I wonder if any glaciers will still be around by the time she gets dressed.
Reverse psychology is hard to use when in a hurry, or when you are angry, as has been as effective as Dad throwing a fit. Believe me, I’ve tried both, to no effect, unless it was increased slowdown, which I wouldn’t have believed possible if I had not witnessed it with my own eyes.
Then again, it could be that the tardiness is a reflection on our marriage, which is in many regards egalitarian. Talk about complete confusion. In general, there is no leadership. Correction, there are multiple leaders, which goes back to the contrarian issue.
There are many ways to skin a cat, and I promise you in our house it will be done in four different ways. Each effective in their own way, but chaos when combined. Not that we’ve skinned any cats. Together or separately. Except for a polecat, but that is another story.
And so, despite my philosophical leanings and anger over being late, it may be that allowing our individual personalities to exist intact may be more important. After all, as Evelyn Waugh so aptly put it “Punctuality is a virtue of the bored.” I might also add, “of the employed.” But again, that is another story.
I’ll try to explain the importance of individuality the next time I’m late to a business meeting.
Of course, the theory that Jolie and Ali are conspiring is still valid. It bears watching, especially as their intellects and interests develop into more complex things than the desire to see Dad’s face turn red.
I’ll keep you posted.